Tensions and divisions are growing among Jewish believers over the importance of Jewish rituals and evangelism to fellow Jews, reportsChristianity Today (February).
In the last three decades, Jewish-Christians have formed Messianic synagogues which uphold Jewish rituals and teachings while affirming a belief in Jesus. But now some Messianic leaders and theologians are saying that traditional evangelism and missions to the Jews are obsolete — a claim that irks such traditional mission agencies as Jews for Jesus and Chosen People Ministries.
There are somewhere between 10,000 to 30,000 Messianic Jews in the U.S., most of whom are affiliated with congregations tied to the International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues and the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations.
Messianic Jews fear that the bridge-building work they have done with the Jewish community may be jeopardized by the confrontational style of mission groups such as Jews for Jesus. Critics in the latter groups, however, believe that Messianic Jews have “dropped the ball” regarding evangelizing Jews in their quest to be considered authentically Jewish. Jim Sibley, a Southern Baptist critic of the Messianic movement, charges that some in the movement are questioning whether Jewish people need to believe in Jesus to be saved.
The fissure can also be seen in the new book “Messianic Judaism Is Not Christianity,” which accuses the movement of over-emphasizing Jewish tradition. The different trajectories of the two movements can be seen in their approach to training leaders. The Messianic Jews have established a seminary in Ann Arbor, Mich., that stresses rabbinical training while the missions movement plans to open a New York seminary that blends Jewish studies with missionary training.
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